Alessandra Belloni & I Giullari Di Piazza, Perform at St. John The Divine, 7/29

By: Jun. 05, 2018
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Alessandra Belloni & I Giullari Di Piazza, Perform at St. John The Divine, 7/29 Internationally celebrated percussionist/singer Alessandra Belloni, joined by her performance troupe I Giullari di Piazza, will return June 29 to Cathedral of St. John the Divine for a June 29th, 8 PM, performance of with "TARANTATA - SPIDER DANCE," an ancient healing tradition with Tarantella trance dances and healing chants for the Black Madonna.

In Italy, the ritual is traditionally celebrated in a church in Apulia. This will be the second time that Alessandra Belloni and I Giullari Di Piazza will reenact the ceremony inside a church in New York, making this a special annual tradition. At the conclusion of the performance, the audience will be invited to join in "releasing the poison and venom from our bodies and souls." I Giullari di Piazza is a resident company of Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The piece re-enacts an ancient Tarantati Trance Ritual, traditionally celebrated in Italy on June 29 (Feast of St. Paul) for the benefit of people, mainly women, who suffered from a form of depression or psychiatric disorder that was attributed to the bite of the tarantula. The company will stage the ceremony as it was done for many centuries around the altar in the small church of San Paolo di Galatina in the Apulia region (the heel of Italy's "boot"). The performance includes excerpts of the Christian ceremony's progenitor, which is based on ecstatic rites of Dionysus.

The "bite of the tarantula" was a myth applied to a condition familiar to women through the centuries who experienced abuse, repressed sexuality, powerlessness, and the feeling of being "caught in a web that binds them." Sufferers, known as "tarantate," endure "tarantismo," a lethal mixture of depression, loneliness, and oppression. This performance re-enacts the healing journey of a "tarantata" as she is taken by Dionysus to the Shaman (played by Alessandra Belloni), who cures her with a "pizzica tarantata," a wild erotic trance dance which is attended by townspeople in the piazza. It's an amazing journey that also includes the powerful procession of the Black Madonna, an icon known in Southern Italy and Brazil that symbolizes womanhood and provides miraculous release.

The ritual is actually an ancient form of music and dance therapy dating back to ancient Greek rituals of Dionysus and his female followers, The Bacchae. Ever syncretic, the early Christians adapted the figure of Dionysus into St Paul and the wild orgiastic ceremony of The Bacchae into a healing trance ritual that became widespread through southern Italy. People who suffered from the "bite of the tarantula," also known as the bite of love, danced in a frenzy for three days to the 6/8 rhythm of the Tarantella while dressed in white. All thetarantati then assembled in a collective euphoria in a small church in Apulia, St Paul of Galatina, releasing their last cries of madness and anguish to the sounds of tambourines. Most women who had been tarantati had a history of sexual abuse, violence or unrequited love.

Based on meticulous research, the I Giullari di Piazza performance has costumes and instrumentation that are as authentic as possible. Music ranges from traditional 6/8 southern Italian to 12/8 heavy-accented modern sounds and includes tarantellas, sensual love songs and women's work chants. Traditional instruments include flute, folk guitar, piccolo recorders, frame drums, tambourines and dumbeck. In places, the event is enhanced with Brazilian rhythms and there are some modern music segments where electric violin, guitar and techno beats have been added. The performers:

Alessandra Belloni (lead vocals, ritual dance, tambourines, frame drums), Joe Deninzon (electric and acoustic violin), Wilson Montuori (electric and acoustic guitar), Susan Eberenz (flute, piccolo, recorders), Vinnie Scialla (drum set, percussion) and Giuseppe De Falco (Neapolitan singer). The dancers: Caterina Rago, Greta Campo (as The Tarantate), Amara (as fire & belly dancer) and stilt dancer Mark Mindek (as St Paul & Dionysus).

Alessandra Belloni has also spent many years reviving the traditions of the Tarantella in workshops for abused and traumatized women. Her experiences in helping to heal and empower these women inspired her to create this production to tell their stories and to honor the ancient wisdom of the dance and its power to change lives. Ms. Belloni has given workshops in the Tarantella around the U.S. and in Europe and South America, earning her a reputation as a shaman (healer). An account of her dance therapy workshops for abused and traumatized women can be seen in a documentary film, "Diva Shaman: Trace-forming Lives" (2014), co-written by Juliet Gentile (

Ms. Belloni received special awards as Master Folk Artist from the New York State Council on the Arts in 2016 & 2018, and from the Italian American Association of Educators for her achievements as performer and teacher. (NY Times Critics Pick , Ben Brantley) Plot Description for I Giullari di Piazza: Tarantella - Spider Dance The "Spider Dance" or Tarantella, is an erotic trance dance ritual from Southern Italy, which has been used to cure the mythical bite of the tarantula. This new 'Spider Dance' production infuses the ancient melodies and instrumentation of the authentic tarantella with modern electronic dance beats. It features aerial, fire and stilt dancers, acrobats and a techno Tarantella trance dance. As with all of Belloni's presentations, the show is meticulously researched, with costumes and instrumentation as authentic as possible. The music ranges from traditional 6/8 southern Italian to 12/8 heavy-accented modern sounds, and includes tarantellas, sensual love songs, and women's work chants.